Birthdays. They’re supposed to be a joyous celebration, right? That one special day each year when we throw a party and reflect on the day our amazing journey began. I’ve had quite a colorful journey and certainly enjoyed many wonderful birthdays in my life. I have tried to surround myself with friends and family during this time, and created some of my most memorable days in my life.
You can just picture that open highway stretched out to infinity before you, beckoning to a future somewhere out on that horizon that calls you to adventure. All that you will become lies out there.
In my twenties, I was a freewheeling single young man. I had just conquered Rheumatic Heart Disease, I felt if death was not around the corner, as healthy as I could be. I had just discovered my passion to travel so I was doing it. I managed to start a business, and enjoyed being the boss…..as they call it, “my own boss” I was also paying salaries, and that wasn’t easy. From monday to Friday I went to work, Friday afternoon I would drive to the UN Commissary and buy a bottle of King Robert’s whisky, sit in my office and waste the afternoon away. Friday Afternoon. Night drives in Nairobi, chasing cars and a 4am dash to my bed. How bad can that be, right? But then one day I crashed my car, it was 4am, and I hated life.
Turning 30 was awesome too! I was living in Nairobi making my dreams come true. Life was good. Driving my 1988 BMW 5 series. If you told me things will change at some point I would have said they will get better.
When you are 50. You’re supposed to have accomplished your greatest life’s work by now, right? Or maybe on your way there. Achieved all your major goals. Changed the world. But what if you’re still working on that? What if you’re just now starting to figure out what you’re really supposed to be doing with your life? You can say many things about turning 50, but one thing you can’t say with a straight face is that you still have your whole life in front of you, especially when you have missed to achieve many things people achieve when they are in their twenties.
At this point in the journey, life has shown you many of its cards. Not all, mind you, but you’ve got a pretty good grasp on how the world turns. If there are still any surprises, they have mostly to do with learning to change the way you see things.
Ultimately for me at 30, I found the answer in meditation. Through meditation I learnt how to become present.
Most of us never learn to appreciate where we are at this very moment because we’re so focused on what happened (or didn’t happen) in a past that no longer exists and worried about a future that hasn’t happened yet.
Meditation taught me that to compare myself to others is the root of human suffering. Because it creates a separation between myself and someone else. A duality. A them and an us. Armed with this new perspective, the next thing I did was to review my life and my experiences to figure out what was working and what was not. This brought me face to face with a rather harsh reality. As much as I liken myself to be a caring person, I realized that I’d spent most of my time focused on my own self-interests.
But you’re walking the path. Celebrate that.
The law says that if you take steps in the direction of your destination every day and keep walking, no matter how slow or how far you must travel, you must one day arrive there. In Tibet they have a tradition. After a long and arduous journey, no matter how difficult, they seek a high vantage point and look back to see just how far they have come. Age is irrelevant. Wherever you are in your journey is a starting point. Whoever or whatever it is you’re chasing, slow down.
Realize there is no race.
Whether you’re 20 or 30 or 50, or 80…something I know very little about, if you never stop seeking then you’ll never cease to be amazed by what you might find.
And if every point is a starting point then every day can be your birthday!
How will you celebrate today?